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Favorite 'Light' Italian Dishes

Crowd-pleasing recipes loaded with flavor — not calories!

Mussel Soup with Saffron

This mussel soup with saffron is simple, flavorful and light. — Photo by Viel/Photocuisine/Corbis

Italian-American food tends to be a favorite for parties and family gatherings. But it is often associated with huge portions, high calorie counts, fat, sodium and carbohydrate-laden sources of refined wheat. Yet lighter versions of classic Italian dishes abound, with reasonable portions and plenty of flavors. Check out the selection below for pizza, pastas, seafood and desserts.

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Saga-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Prosciutto by Lauren Groveman

These portion-controlled appetizers are as luscious as you'll remember them: Saga blue cheese mixed with whipped cream cheese to create a creamy filling, then stuffed inside dried dates and wrapped with thinly sliced prosciutto. Per serving: 65 calories, 2g fat, 4g protein, 1g fiber

Pizzette by Victoria Blashford-Snell and Brigitte Hafner

Serving these mini pizzas is a great way to experience that full Italian pizza flavor without all the calories of a regular-size pizza. Let your guests mix and match such toppings as pesto, sundried tomato paste, cured meats, olives, cheeses, arugula and pine nuts to discover new flavor pairings. Per serving: 114 calories, 4g fat, 4g protein, 1g fiber

Cheese Tortellini With a Fresh Tomato and Artichoke Slaw by Anne Bryn

This dish packs a great, summery flavor while giving you some snazzy health benefits. Artichokes have managed to beat out almost all fruits and vegetables in terms of antioxidant levels, are great for improving heart health, and are a vegetable of choice for helping to control blood sugar. Per serving: 259 calories, 7g fat, 13g protein, 6g fiber

Pasta Puttanesca by Maxine Effenson Chuck and Beth Gurney

If you love Italian food but can't tolerate dairy, this pasta puttanesca should definitely be a dish to consider. Red wine, black olives, sundried tomatoes and herbs provide its robust flavor. You can serve the puttanesca with a bowl of Parmesan for cheese-lovers to sprinkle. Per serving: 256 calories, 7g fat, 8g protein, 5g fiber

Sole With Parmesan Glaze by Leslie Revsin

Here's a simple, quick recipe for your weekday Italian nights that doesn't compromise flavor. Sole is like a sweeter version of flounder, rich in protein. And with just five ingredients, this recipe won't keep you long at the grocery store. Per serving: 247 calories, 7g fat, 39g protein, 0g fiber

Italian Mixed Seafood Soup by Diane Kochilas

Falling somewhere between soup and stew, this stovetop seafood dish is crammed with clams, mussels, squid, shrimp, scallops and tomatoes. It does take a few hours to make, so plan ahead. Per serving: 243 calories, 7g fat, 35g protein, 1g fiber

Mussel Soup With Saffron by Mario Batali

Low in calories but a good source of protein, this soup would be an excellent choice for an Italian lunch. Saffron, which Batali refers to as "the king of spices," makes the dish memorable. Per serving: 157 calories, 6g fat, 14g protein, 0g fiber

Chunky Pork Shoulder Ragu by Michele Scicolone

The hearty pork shoulder in this recipe disintegrates into a sauce flavored with fennel, sage and rosemary. It pairs well with sturdy pastas like rigatoni, and it also shines atop polenta. Per serving: 95 calories, 3g fat, 11g protein, 1g fiber

Biscotti by Maria Filice

Just one of these decadent cookies makes a perfect dessert, perhaps paired with an espresso and a bowl of fresh fruit. Try adding ingredients like chocolate chips, dried cranberries, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, citrus zest and various extracts, such as almond and lemon. Per serving: 76 calories, 3g fat, 1g protein, 0g fiber

Twisted Cookies from the Val d' Aosta by Nick Malgieri

A favorite of Queen Margherita of Italy, these buttery yeast-risen pastries are pretty enough to serve for company. Per serving: 44 calories, 1g fat, 1g protein, 0g fiber

You may also like: Cooking with Italian grandmothers.

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